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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Research in Action – Force Majeure

Have you ever heard of the term "force majeure"? It was completely unfamiliar to me when it came up in a file recently. According to the Yale University Library, force majeure is "clauses excuse a party from liability if some unforeseen event beyond the control of that party prevents it from performing its obligations under the contract."

When the term was mentioned in the financial earnings analyst day file I was working on, I could not for the life of me make out what the speaker was saying. He had a strong Southern accent (though the company ironically is in Wisconsin), and I didn't have any supplemental materials that would help me discern the term. The actual sentence in the transcript was:

"There's also an additional amount that's possible if you have force majeure costs, costs that are outside the control of the utility."

I tried googling for "costs outside the control of the utility," but that yielded nothing useful. Finally after listening to the section many times, I determined that the first word was either "forced" or "force," so I tried googling the name of the company with "forced * costs." If you remember from my post on the Google cheat sheet, the * represents one or more words between "forced" and "costs."

Unfortunately, that too yielded no results. However, on the next search I hit the jackpot, I searched for the company name with "force * costs," and there was the term I was looking for, "force majeure costs."

So if you don't find something on the first search, don't give up. Try a few additional searches with different wording, and you just might hit on the term you're searching for!